[from THE REFORMATION ADVOCATE, June, 1874.]
Now, when most people know by whose authority they are "forbidden to marry, and commanded to abstain from meats," that thereby they may reach a high degree of holiness, they think there is no danger of their subjection to such bondage. Yet it is a fact that many, even of the most accomplished in society—especially females, are voluntarily putting their necks under that galling yoke. True, neither the Pope nor earthly parents are now in the practice of forcing celibacy, as formerly. The Romish church cannot prevail with the civil potentates to execute her cruel mandates in this and other respects, as in past generations. The thunders of the Vatican have long ceased to terrify the human conscience. It may not be so always. In the mean time, what Rome cannot do by coercion, she will still attempt to accomplish by blandishment and example. An ignorant mind and a guilty conscience constitute a fit subject on which to engraft superstition; for superstition implies belief without evidence, implicit faith, mere imagination. But God requires a "reasonable service," as well as "the obedience of faith." (Rom. 12:1; 16:26.) "Satan beguiles through subtilty."
Whence came "Christmas trees?" To answer geographically, we think they have been imported chiefly from Germany:—not the trees literally, but the superstition associated with them. We have read of "English Popish ceremonies obtruded on the Church of Scotland" in the 17th century, and enforced upon a reluctant people by ecclesiastical and civil penalties. In this "free country" we do not need coercion; we willingly entertain these superstitious observances and lying vanities! It is certain that these evergreens are not designed to commemorate the Saviour’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, when "branches were strawed in the way;" for Christmas, the fabled time of our Saviour’s birth, is associated with them. In the mythical personage "Santa Claus," a name too familiar to juvenile ears, we are led beyond the Christian era to the period of pagan idolatry. To render Christianity more acceptable to heathens, their rites were brought into the church. When we combine Santa Claus, Christ, and the mass, we have an epitome of Popery; and so Satan’s caricature of Christianity.
But it may be said, "These superstitious associations are not connected with the said trees in the minds of Protestants, and therefore no harm can result; it is a matter of mere amusement for children. What does the juvenile mind know or care about any thing but the sweetmeats, &c.?" Doubtless to children the candies and other eatables are part of the attractions. But these are equally so at other times. Do not the children see and hear excitement in the conduct and language of "children of larger growth," on the approach, and on the day of annual festivity? Yes they do. And what is it that is so exhilarating to adults? Is it the birth of the Saviour of the world? No, for the end of that mirth with many, is the indulging in riot and drunkenness. Did the reader ever inquire at the oracles of God whether Christ instituted any memorial of his birth? Perhaps not. Well, did he appoint memorials of his death? O yes! and we may assure ourselves that He, in his wisdom and love, has appointed the most important and suitable memorials to nourish the graces of his disciples—"till he come."
The holy Sabbath, the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism, are all the memorials of redemption work, completed in his death, which he deemed proper to appoint: and it will always be found that those who evidence least regard to these, are most forward to patronize substitutes for them. They who regard lying vanities forsake their own mercy. The youthful mind and heart are most susceptible of deep and lasting impressions; and when thus early trained and habituated to superstitious observances, become fit subjects for subsequent cultivation by the Romish priesthood.
Obsta principiis, resist the beginnings, is a good maxim here as in other evils; a maxim which parents, ministers, and elders would do well to exemplify.